New program gives students opportunity to reflect

Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

Last week was Signature Experience Week at Berry. The Signature Experience program was developed as part of Berry’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for the reaccreditation process. 

To participate in the program, students must complete an application focused on a Signature Learning Experience [SLE] that they have participated in outside the classroom. This SLE can be a study abroad program, student research, a leadership role in an on-campus job or something similar. Students in the program will then take the BCC 300 class, a one-credit course that will provide them with time and prompts to reflect on their SLE and connect it to other aspects of their Berry education. The final component of the class is the creation of an ePortfolio, and online medium similar to a résumé for displaying information such as work experience and education.

In order to bring the program to the campus, the Signature Experience committee had a table in Krannert Tuesday through Thursday with information about the program, giveaways and opportunities to enter a raffle. They handed out Signature Experience pens and stickers to everyone who visited the table. They also put informational postcards about the program in student mailboxes and hung banners in Krannert lobby. 

“We’re trying to generate interest and buzz,” Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and QEP committee member Lindsey Taylor said. “I think what’s really important for students to know is that there is a true takeaway that will not only help you while you’re still here, but it really does shape and prepare students for how they communicate about what they learned at Berry.”

This “roll-out week” is leading up to a visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting organization for Berry. Berry submitted a report in the fall that was evaluated by an off-site committee to ensure compliance with the SACS guidelines. This week, an on-site committee will meet with faculty and students and also hear a presentation on the QEP.

According to Taylor, the course has many practical applications for students. 

“You really are curating your story of how you learned and how you grew at Berry,” Taylor said.

Senior Hannah Parker agrees that the program is beneficial. She took the first pilot class in the fall and incorporated four signature experiences into her reflection in the class.

“I went into it and had gotten lost going from thing to thing to thing,” Parker said. “The class actually allowed me time to remember why I said yes to everything. It really forced me to see how even my Gen Ed classes were helping me in all of those areas.”

Parker is also helping with presentations and advertising for the program, including a presentation to the SACS representatives who visited campus this week.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Susan Conradsen, assistant professor of psychology and director of the women’s and gender studies program, will serve as the director of the Signature Experience program for the next three years.

According to David Elmer, assistant professor of kinesiology and QEP committee member, the next step is to recruit instructors for the BCC 300 class and to develop training workshops for them. 

Elmer says that most students have done some kind of experience that would be considered a Signature Learning Experience.

“We have some survey data that says that basically every student, by the time they’ve graduated, would have done something that would have qualified them for this program,” Elmer said. “What I want them to know is that they probably haven’t really understood how powerful that experience was.”

The program is currently accepting applications for students who would like to participate in the fall. 

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